We bought our house as a HUD foreclosure in early 2011, and it had some issues. The kitchen was kind of a mess. It didn’t have any appliances except for the dishwasher. It had some old metal cabinets that had been painted with house paint. Junky baseboards, crappy laminate countertop, particleboard “backsplash,” peeling lead-based paint and terribly uneven wall texture. Oh, and a huge hole in the ceiling from a leak that had been fixed, but not patched. Although Mike was a little intimidated by this whole scene, I was happy. I wanted a new kitchen done my way, not a new kitchen that someone else had done to their taste. I thought we’d probably rip the whole thing out and start all over.
We had planned to redo it over time — which we figured would be within about a year of living there. We had spent most of our original budget on other things, like gutters and other repairs. So we only had about $4,000 left, and that wasn’t even close to what we thought we needed. We needed time to save more money and to really figure out what we wanted in there.
We thought we’d have some custom cabinets and countertops made to match the original ones that were still there (and our next door neighbor’s — who had 90% of her original kitchen still intact). We also wanted to incorporate this cool vintage stove we got. Beyond that, we didn’t have too many ideas upfront. But when Mike got laid off in December 2011, we decided that we should either rent or sell the house, and the current kitchen was not going to cut it for either of those scenarios. We still only had $4,000, and were really not inclined to do too much custom work since we weren’t going to live there. But we really wanted a custom look, and we wanted it to look nice.
In order to get our loan, the bank made us put money into a special account and make certain repairs within two weeks of closing escrow. One of those things was to fix the ceiling and paint the kitchen. We thought we were going to take the whole ceiling down (along with the walls) because the texture was so uneven at some point, so we wanted to just do a quick and cheap fix for the bank loan.
We also thought we’d paint it in something fun like orange or red, just temporarily! And we had the brilliant idea to try to strip the paint off the cabinets and get down to bare metal for a sort-of industrial look. None one of those ideas worked out too well. The whole lipstick on a pig thing, I guess. We lived with the sloppy red paint, the ill-fitting stove, and the half-stripped cabinets for months, and probably would have for a lot longer if we weren’t forced to renovate.
Next up was choosing a paint color. Fun. Which color goes best with half-stripped yellow-metal cabinets?
The final touches of our temporary kitchen:
Ok, So, it becomes December and Mike gets laid off and we have to get serious about this kitchen! We developed a plan.
We would try and reuse the cabinets. They were in really good condition mechanically, and kind of cool and unique (and according to Google, can be pretty valuable) and since they were metal they could be stripped and powder coated, which as it turns out, is a pretty eco-friendly way of coating things. Plus we’d save a lot of money not having to get new cabinets, and we’d help save the Earth by reusing them. We searched high and low and finally found Industrialex in Colorado Springs who would strip and powder coat them for a really good price. I’m not really sure how they stripped them, but I think it was some kind of blasting. Probably bead blasting or a gentle type of sandblasting? Their website isn’t that great, but they’re located at 171 Talamine Court, Colorado Springs, CO 80907 so if you need something powder coated just go over there and they’ll help you out. We did have to take them out (for the second time) and haul them over there but Industrialex delivered them to us when they were done. At this point we resigned ourselves to not being able to make that cool old stove fit in our space, so we bought a brand new stove that was a standard size.
Since we were now going for resale, we wanted a pretty generic kitchen, but with some trendy style. We did the white on the cabinets and chose white subway tile for the backsplash. We didn’t have much of an idea on countertops, so we spent a week visiting about 20 different local stores, show rooms, and stone yards, as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot. There are tons of different countertop options! I have always loved marble (way too expensive for this project) and also really liked the science lab look with the soapstone countertops. But soapstone is very expensive and not really that great for a kitchen. We looked at “green” countertops, we looked at quartz, and a million different kinds of stone. Finally we found a piece of honed Absolute Black granite with a custom edge at Colorado Springs Marble and Granite. It was a piece that they had installed in some fancypants house in The Broadmoor, but three days later, were asked to remove it by the homeowner who hated it. I’m not sure what she hated about it, it was a pretty nice piece of stone.
It took some fumbling around and of course went way over the original timeline, but eventually it did get installed and looked really nice! Part of the delay was our fault. We didn’t realize that the cabinets had to actually be installed before they would template. They wouldn’t template on the cabinets, then let us take them out to be powder coated. They wanted the powder coating to be done and the cabinets reinstalled before templating. We fussed around with a different powder coater who used a stripper in Denver (who wound up not being able to actually strip them for us, but couldn’t tell us that until he had them in Denver!) for a couple weeks before finding IndustrialEx (who did the stripping and the powder coating and charged 1/3rd the price). But then once the countertop people did the templating, they measured wrong and it took another eternity for them to be able to fit us in to re-template.
While the kitchen was all torn apart with the ordeal of the cabinets, then the endless waiting for the countertops, we patched, skim coated, and painted the walls along with getting the ceiling redone. We finally got rid of the hideous fluorescent light, which meant round two of the ceiling — we ultimately didn’t take down all the walls, just skim coated them. But the ceiling needed to be taken down and redone in a few spots. If I would have done this renovation to live in, I would have chosen a more exciting paint color. But we were doing different shades of grays throughout the house, so we continued that in the kitchen. We used Benjamin Moore Genesis White. All Benjamin Moore‘s paints are low-VOC.
A quick Google search and a couple of YouTube videos later and Mike managed to replace the whole wire so that it went through the wall instead. Initially, we figured we’d just splice in a length of wire to run it behind the wall, but that isn’t up to safety codes, apparently. So the whole wire had to be replaced. He also fixed some other weird electrical things that showed up as we were prepping the area for the backsplash.
Then he spent days and nights scraping, sanding, patching, and making presentable the rest of the walls and ceiling.
There was still the matter of the hutch that we had sort of been ignoring. Someone had put some crappy, sloppy mosaic tile on it at some point, and that had to go. But what to replace it with? Our neighbor has wood on hers, so we decided to go that route. We were going to get a piece of butcher block from Ikea and cut it to fit. We started out by getting rid of the tile.
We were still waiting for the cabinets and the granite after all this, but were feeling pretty confident about how things were going on our end and all the new skills we’d learned.
Things were really humming along now and we could see the end in sight…
The cabinets were kind of carved up when they installed the dishwasher before we bought the place. So there was no side panel on it, just some lame piece of particle board duct taped to the counter. We wanted to get a real side piece and install it properly so we went to Home Depot to get one. The people who owned the place before us also didn’t bother to remove the cabinets when they redid the floors so the cabinets were sitting about 1/4 inch above the rest of the floor, on top of layers of linoleum and other flooring. If we were going to live there we would have addressed this, but since we weren’t, it didn’t seem like a huge deal. Until we went to buy and install that stupid side panel. The granite people said it needed to be installed before they could install the granite, why, I have no idea.
Anyhow, let’s just say that the stress of job loss, having to move from the house we just bought, months of having the kitchen torn up, trial and error of what seemed like the simplest projects, along with the general pain in the buttness and draining wallet of remodeling caused a huge meltdown in the cabinet aisle of the Home Depot over the $35 dishwasher side panel that was 1/4 inch too short. That’s when we decided to call in the Big Guns. I have no doubt that we could have finished this kitchen project by ourselves if we wouldn’t have been under such a time constraint. But by then, it had all become a little too much for people who had never done anything like this before.
We just had a few annoying projects left:
- Install the vent hood
- Replace the missing molding from over the door that was behind the soffit and add baseboard molding
- Fix some of the electrical that Mike was unable to figure out
- Install an overhead light fixture
- Address that stupid dishwasher side panel!
Brian finished fitting it in and added some missing parts by using Bondo, and the missing molding piece was done. Like it was never missing! Later, Mike repaired the weird hole in the door.
The rest of the projects, along with a few other random things for the rest of the house and we really were almost done.
We kept our secondhand fridge because it was in good condition. It was just missing its kickplate which I tracked down online.
I bought a cute overhead light fixture for $5 at Habitat For Humanity Restore.
We kept the sink and faucet, which just needed to be scrubbed and polished.
Finally the countertops were installed.
So the very last thing we needed was to have our favorite tile guy, Tim, come do the subway tile. I like subway tile, but the main reason we chose it here is because we had a bunch of it left over from the bathroom project.
The numbers (approximate)
- DIY drywall, patching, etc.: $75
- Professional drywall: $500
- Recessed lighting: $600
- Other electrical: $80
- Failed attempts to strip cabinets: $30
- Paint and stain (both times): $140
- Cabinets powder coat: $300
- Vent powder coat ($75 for the whole house, 7 of them): $10
- Granite: $1,000
- Tile installation (we already had the tile leftover from another project): $350
- Vent hood: $400
- Light: $5
- Metro shelf and butcher board top: $250
- Stove: $475
- Fridge kick plate: $25
- Flight for my brother to come out and help: $300
- Misc. and unaccounted for: $200
So I guess we were pretty much able to do it very close to the $4,000 we originally had.